Cairo: Egypt's military prosecution yesterday postponed the appeal hearing of Maikel Nabil Sanad, an imprisoned blogger convicted of criticising the military. His brother Mark said the three-week delay amounted to a death sentence, since Maikel — now 43 days into a hunger strike — has vowed to abstain from water as well as food beginning yesterday.

"By postponing the case until October 11, they are killing him," said Mark, speaking outside the military prosecution headquarters yesterday. He said the prosecution postponed the case because his brother's file was not placed before the judge as it should have been — a reason Mark called ‘silly and stupid'.

For rights activists, the blogger's case has become a symbol of the crackdown on freedom of expression carried out by Egypt's military rulers, who promised to guide Egypt to democracy but have instead continued the repressive policies of former President Hosni Mubarak. But the lack of public support he has received is also a sobering warning for Egypt's future.

Refusing to fight

While other Egyptians arrested for their tweets or blog posts have garnered waves of public support that likely encouraged their release, only a couple dozen protesters were present outside the military prosecution on Tuesday to support Sanad. Activists say many have refused to fight for Sanad because of his unorthodox views — he is an atheist and has a more favourable stance toward Israel than most Egyptians.

Sanad's case is important because "it's a freedom of speech case," says Maha Maamoun, a project coordinator at the Hesham Mubarak Law Centre who was outside the military court on Tuesday. She said she did not expect a large crowd in support of the imprisoned blogger because of his unpopular views. "People won't support much someone they disagree with," she said. "People still do discriminate between people who have the same thinking or ideology" and those who don't — like Sanad.

Several bystanders told foreign journalists at the protest to leave Egypt, and activists reported that someone in a nearby residential building dropped a note down on the crowd telling them to leave, threatening "we'll pour water on you."